5th chapter of an adventure story

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5th chapter of an adventure story

Postby FluffyMao » August 12th, 2021, 2:52 pm

Hello once again! I've got Chapter 5 here, for your perusal. I tried to slow the pacing down a bit (at least, to begin with), based on the intensity of the last chapter. Let me know what you think, particularly about pacing.

A note, this does pick up right where Ch 4 left off.

Chapter 5: (word count: 2945)
Spoiler:
After smothering giggles and yet more breathing, still high off his recent success, Rin hauled himself to his feet and examined the door.

It was another polished smooth, pocket door with a central opening gear with five fingerholds. It was framed by a slightly darker stone than the stone wall. On either side of the door was a tall niche carved with depictions of the old spirits. Kinzi’s feline face featured a lot, but also a tree snake that Rin didn’t recognize from Grandmother’s stories.

In each niche sat a slender white stone pedestal. The left pedestal held a dark wooden bowl the exact same size as Rin’s fortune bowl. The other was empty.

I think I know where this is going.

First Rin tried the door. To his surprise, it opened with ease.

Outside was a dark corridor of rough-hewn stone. Glancing up and down the corridor revealed, as expected, nothing but blackness. But it was a familiar blackness.

Rin let the door slide closed without stepping through. He glanced down at the fortune bowl where he’d dropped it. The last stone was still inside. A good fortune stone, funnily enough. He glanced back around at the pedestals.

Alright. If the door’s already unlocked…what’s with the pedestals? Was this another trick?

Part of him wanted to barrel forward. Just jump straight into hunting for the ring room again. After all, the door was unlocked, so there was no reason to stay. Another part of him was terribly curious of what would happen.

Curiosity won out.

Rin carefully placed the pale wooden fortune bowl on the empty pedestal.

Thud.

Something small fell into the other bowl.

Rin scurried across to the left pedestal and stood up on his toes to peek over the edge of the dark bowl. Inside was a smooth, flat river stone, about the size of his fist, a dull brown in color with flecks of white and light gray. Unlike the fortune stones, this stone was etched with a light rune. And it was glowing.

Rin’s eyes widened. A light source! Without thinking he reached in and snatched it. Fortunately, nothing averse happened.

He hugged the stone close, then happily proceeded out the door and into the dark corridor. The soft white light didn’t illuminate more than a few steps ahead of him, but it was oh so much better than the complete and utter blackness of before.

The door exited out into a long corridor stretching away in both directions, and was the only door Rin could see. It ratcheted shut behind him with a sound that echoed faintly up the corridor. Suddenly curious, the boy tried the door again. It opened without any issues.

Backtracking is an option, Rin mused to himself, letting the door slide shut once more. But how do I tell this door apart from any other? First he tried to scratch across the stone surface of the doorframe with his light stone. That didn’t do anything to the polished surface. And once the idea occurred to him that he could damage the light stone, Rin resisted trying it on the more rough surface of the surrounding stone. Without any other aid, he just tried to remember the shape and placement of the door. Just in case.

After another moment’s consideration, Rin decided to make his way down the left hall first.

*****

Rin walked along the corridor, the fingers of his left hand trailing against the wall out of habit more than anything else. The light stone gave off just enough to see several hands in any direction, which helped in avoiding the sharper pebbles and pieces of shattered flagstones, which in turn saved his bare feet.

The flagstones. Those were…something.

Previously, when he’d been moving through blackness, Rin had thought the flagstones were just broken with regular wear and age. The Pyramid was ancient. As in, his people had found the pyramid centuries ago and it was old & abandoned back then. Age seemed a reasonable enough suspect for breakage.

Now that he could see the floor, though…he had to wonder.

Part of the wear was definitely age. Some flagstone corners were softer, more rounded than others. Others were nothing but powdered stone. But huge central sections of the hall floor were shattered, the jagged cracks spiraling out from a single point of impact, spreading across a good few hands of the wide corridor. The shattered sections were even sunk into the ground, each side of the hall slightly sloping down towards the center of the cracks.

It looked like something big had come down this way a long time ago.

Just to be on the safe side, Rin stuck to the walls of the corridor as close as possible. He wasn’t chancing that the floor would finally give in to gravity with him on it.

The walls of the corridor never changed. Still that rough-hewn rock wall, with particularly jagged edges here and there from where a tool had carved it. But it wasn’t just a single mass of gray. Horizontal layers of blacks and various grays striped the wall. Every now and then, a large, irregular rust red splotch broke up the natural pattern.

More interestingly were the archaic characters engraved deep into the wall, near the ceiling a good few feet above Rin’s head. The white pigment filling the engravings had lasted longer than just about anything else had, but was finally starting to fade in places. The etchings weren’t continuous. More sporadic. Here and there at the top of the corridor wall. Just…random words, not complete sentences. Maybe place names? Or directions? Rin had never seen anything like them.

He was leaning towards directions, though, especially when he came to an intersection of hallways. Hallways where each corner was clearly labeled with those ancient, white characters, his light stone making them almost glow against the dark stone.

But Rin had learned his lesson. He didn’t venture out into the openness of that intersection immediately. He crouched by the corner where his corridor turned, and listened. Nothing. Then he scooted across the hall to the other corner. And listened. Still nothing.

Okay…no nekhesa prowling around this time. Rin slowly stood up, ears still straining to catch any hint of claws on stone or hissing that would probably be his only warning. He took his time examining the other corners, trying to find any hint as to what each of the halls led to.

Well, there is a hint, Rin muttered to himself, craning his neck back to look at the white runes just below the ceiling. I just can’t read it. He couldn’t even differentiate using the length of the words since each one was about the same. But there was one corridor, the one that turned to the left, that was marked by two words, a handspan of space in between the groups of characters. And, with nothing else to go on, that seemed as good a choice as any. One hand trailing along the wall, the boy set off down the left hallway, the little light stone gripped tight in his other hand.

*****

Rin didn’t know how long he walked (but it had felt like hours) before he finally found anything else that broke up the rough rock wall. But it wasn’t a door. Or an intersection. It wasn’t even a corner.

It was a huge, jagged hole in the wall.

The hole was twice as tall as Rin was and roughly circular. And it went entirely through a wall as thick as his forearm. Water slowly dripped from somewhere above on the other side, collecting in a little stream that ran alongside the wall, in the direction Rin had been walking. A cautious head poking revealed that it wasn’t another corridor like he’d first suspected, but a large room.

Room might not be the best word, Rin thought as he craned his neck to look up at the ceiling. He couldn’t find the ceiling, not with his little light stone. But he could, just barely, make out the tips of several very large stalactites. And the shattered remnants of those that had fallen under their own weight to the worn floor. He couldn’t see any far wall, and he didn’t like how the dripping water echoed in that…place.

Rin stepped back into the relative…well, safety probably wasn’t the best word either, but the corridor had, at least, known dangers…one known danger…how many unknown…really, there could be anything in the Pyramid.

Rin purposefully let that thought die. Then he took a deep breath and resisted a wince when it stretched his sore side. Rolling his shoulders, he ventured a little farther down the hall. The cave was an option if he didn’t find anything else soon.

Fortunately, not much farther down the corridor, Rin found two doors. The light reflecting off both polished surfaces gave them away much more readily than just fingers trailing along the wall. One door was set into the left wall, and the other was set into the right several long steps beyond, barely visible at the edge of the light.

Rin glanced between the two doors a moment, before opening the nearest one first. The light stone illuminated what was unmistakably a cavern wall that blended with the rough-hewn stone of the corridor in a slow, creeping build up of bubbly calcium. At least the ceiling was visible in this room, a few small stalactites dripping from it. The sound of dripping water echoed from much farther away, past the edge of Rin’s meager light.

Rin just had time enough to wonder if this small corner of cave was a part of the much larger cavern he’d found farther down the corridor when a pair of glowing yellow eyes opened in the darkness. For just a moment, Rin was frozen, caught in that predatory gaze. Six smaller pairs of eyes, red in the light, swiveled towards him, and a rumbling growl shook him through to his very bones. Then the creature stood up. Red eyes bobbled in the darkness untouched by Rin’s tiny light as the nekhesa woke up.

Rin stumbled back through the door, his eyes still locked with the nekhesa’s. The door slid shut. And, for one singular sweet moment, he felt safe. Then the roar echoed down the corridor towards him.

The hole in the wall!

The sound of claws on stone scored lines of terror through the boy as he scrambled backwards, then bolted for the other door.

Rin wrenched the farther door open and darted through it. He hadn’t yet seen the nekhesa in the light and, Kinzi willing, he never would.

The door clattered closed behind him, and he pressed his back against it, a hand supporting his injured side. Deep breaths, Rin, he reminded himself. Immediately he winced and gingerly applied further pressure to his side. Maybe not that deep.

*****

Rin found himself in a long room, dimly lit with a dozen torches set high on the walls. Under about half of the torches were tall marble statues of men in loincloths and feathered headdresses, some with weapons in hand. Three waist-high pedestals, glittering like gold, stood in a line in the center of the room. Down at the opposite side of the room stood a large, circular archway that lead deeper into the Pyramid. Between Rin and the archway was a floor littered with bones and broken marble.

I don’t like this. Rin gulped at the sight of the bones. But between the two of possible death before him and certain death behind him, his choice wasn’t so much an actual choice. Slowly, every nerve still alight with adrenaline, he stepped deeper into the room.

Rin stepped lightly between the yellowed bones, trying to avoid cutting his feet on the shards. His eyes darted around the room, constantly scanning for any movement. Particularly the bones. Even out under the sun, bones left without funeral rites had a tendency to…rise back up. In the Pyramid, where death mana was even more common, skeletons could stand at any moment.

Though, now that Rin was looking, he saw that most of the bones were shattered in some way, as if under great force. His gaze was pulled from a bashed in skull to the studded greatclub held by one of the statues. From there he glanced down to the bits of marble mixed among the bones and rotted leather armor, and gulped.

The statues attacked, Rin realized with a sinking feeling. He began moving again, alert for whatever had triggered the violence. He was so preoccupied with his search, that he almost tripped over the outstretched femur of a skeleton slumped against one of the golden pedestals.

Not outstretched. There was no way that leg had been connected to the skeleton. Not with a gap of six hands between the leg and what remained of the hip. The skeleton’s battered skull resided in its lap. Along with a pistol.

Rin blinked down at the unusual weapon. It looked like it was made of brass, but he couldn’t be sure. Firearms were masterclass artisan weapons, usually only owned by the wealthy. Though, he supposed that dungeon delvers would have to be wealthy. And crazy and stupid. Underneath the incredulous thought of finding a firearm in the Pyramid, was the equally incredulous thought of how’d you get it in here? directed to the skeleton it had belonged to.

Rin didn’t have any training with a firearm. But it can’t be too much more difficult than throwing knives, he thought hopefully, picking the weapon up. A tad uncertainly, Rin sighted down the short barrel. It took him an embarrassing amount of time to figure out how to open the thing to check the ammunition. He pointedly ignored the voice in his head, it sounded too much like Nika, telling him that that was a sign he shouldn’t be messing with this thing.

It turned out to all be moot anyway. Rin sighed as he stared into the firearm. Empty. Across from him was a statue riddled with little round holes. Yeah, Rin thought wearily. That makes sense. He tucked the pistol into his sash anyways. If nothing else, he could throw it at the nekhesa. He shifted and the skeleton slowly slid down and sideways with the jarring sound of clattering bones, no longer precariously supported by the weight of the pistol.

In the skeleton’s lap, beneath where the pistol had fallen, was a small leather bag, rotted with age, but something jingled inside when Rin shook it. For a brief moment, hope welled up in the boy. Then, like a soap bubble from Mum’s washing, it popped after he pried open the tie. Instead of the lead pellets he was hoping for, the bag had thick shavings of some yellow metal.

Gold? Rin upended the little bag onto the floor, scattering golden metal shavings all over his and the skeleton’s legs. Gold. Quick on the heels of that thought came realization. Rin stared at the golden pedestal before him. Still half hidden behind the skeleton were gouges in the metal, as if from a sharp knife. The gouges went deep, and, from what Rin could see, the pedestal was solid yellow metal (gold!) all the way through.

That…that was…

That’s the trap, Rin thought and swallowed, mouth suddenly dry. He gingerly eased up from his crouch, very carefully not touching any of the gold (blood and bone, that’s solid gold!) shavings now strewn about his feet. He didn’t make any sudden movements, eyes darting from statue to statue. None had moved. Yet.

The boy tiptoed out of the room, not pausing once until he’d made it to the archway. Then, and only then, did he glance back. Nothing moved. Not the statues, not the skeletons. He briefly contemplated at least making a round of the room, if only to see if any of the other skeletons still had any gear. But in the end he decided against it. Better not chance it.

Rin stepped through the archway, and immediately fell to his knees retching. His vision swam and blurred into a swirling mess of colors. He was too hot, then too cold, and it felt like his skin was peeling while something repeatedly hit a gong inside his head, and it was all too much.

As suddenly as it had began, it all stopped.

Rin was left lying on the cool marble floor, shivering hard while sweat dripped into his eyes. Shakily he pushed himself up, arms trembling under the strain. Struggling to suck down air, he stared at the ring of dark blue-gray stone that was embedded into the wall on the other side of that circular archway. The archway he’d just stepped through. He could still see the gold pedestals in the previous room. The runes on the ring glittered.

He hadn’t been teleported this time. But it still felt like he’d been washed in a monsoon and hung out to dry. Will that happen again? Rin wondered, even as he hissed out a long breath and carefully compressed his left side. The smiley guard had said he needed to step through the ring three times. Would it count if he went through this one again?

With that thought Rin pushed himself to standing and staggered back into the golden trap room. Nothing happened. He went back through, one hand still pressed to his side. Nope. Still nothing. He sighed. It’d been worth a shot. Nothing for it but to keep on going.

Two rings down. One to go.
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